Category Archives: Memoirs

Breathtaking Beijing

 – Kashiraj Pandey

With a shimmering kaleidoscope of abundant natural scenery, history and colorful cultural identities of numerous ethnic groups, China is rich in arts, beliefs, customs, cultures, and scientific accomplishments. Besides being a leader in manufacturing industries and development works, it features many magnificent natural and historical sites with royal cities.

I first arrived in Kathmandu leaving my home in 1987 when China had a profound imprint in my mind. Almost everything Chinese around me; to start with, a pair of shoes, clothes, pens, pencils, cups, utensils, and later a lovely Phoenix bicycle that I bought with my first cheque, were all manufactured in China. Therefore, it was a dream for me to visit China and for long I was hopeful about my coming to this beautiful country of amazing people, specially to see two places that I heard from time to time; the Great Wall and Tian’an’men Square. Not surprisingly, on 8 May 2012, I arrived in Beijing and I am writing from here today. Filled with reflective and vivid thoughtfulness, a hope to visit many more places itself is an excitement. Travelling with a group of educationists and writers like myself from 18 different countries of the world is an additional benefit to me.

Regardless of several rumours about Beijing’s pollution, on the very next day of my arrival, I was happy to witness a clear blue sky, the rising sun and a panoramic view of the city from the window of my dormitory room at Beijing Chinese Language and Culture College. Below, I could clearly observe a group of people walking, running and doing exercises; stretching out the parts of their body in the bright sunlight, twisting and bending in a seemingly choreographed shadow-play; couples, youths, children, students and everybody. Moreover, my first observation of Beijing is to see everyone proud to use either bicycles or public vehicles as the most common modes of transportation, and therefore, this cuts down greatly on air pollution despite the city’s size and dense population.

I too could see cultural and linguistic variations in Beijing, representing different regions of this vast country. For such a large nation it is interesting that the society is relatively uniform, with a sense of national identity based on the ideals of equality and hard work. Beyond the beauty and steady progress of China, I am amazed to see how they have successfully tackled the challenge to encourage people for mutual affection and unity, a lesson all Nepalese should learn at the critical juncture of the history of our nation.

For me, it is simply awesome to see the hard work and commitment people have put in to build this nation and expand the rich heritage and virtues to the outside world. My trip to China, therefore, has proved more than wonderful. This will remain in my memory forever and I wish to unfold Beijing from the tours, arranged every Sunday from our college, which also served as great breaks from the intensive in-house activities.

A trip to the Great Wall

In line with the purpose of my visit to China, I was taken around the significant sites of Beijing where an excursion to the Badaling Great Wall became among the best treats I was given during my stay, which is some 55 kilometers north of Beijing, linking many high hills. After a short drive, our day started with an ecstasy preparing ourselves for an uphill walk at least for more than an hour.

To anyone who has the energy to walk up to the top of the area where the tourists congregate all the times, busy taking pictures and enjoying the convalescent fresh air from the natural Air Condition with superb views, this trip with spectacular sight will be etched out in my mind.

Each guard tower, appearing on the way up, literally chills the visitors, while thinking how anything so big and so long ever came into being. Everything I saw around was simply simple and well managed as the Great Wall has always been a fascination for the visitors. Thousands of tourists from all over the world have come to experience the walk on the wall with the majestic view of nature and the hills around.

The Great Wall was primarily built to protect China from outside aggression, especially from the North to stop Mongolians, and for the safety of the country and her people as early as the 5th century BC which has become the major touristic site these days.

Bearing an exceptional testimony to the civilizations of ancient China, this military structure holds historic and strategic significance. It is said that a great army of manpower, composed of local people, soldiers, and prisoners built the wall. Any moment I could imagine an overwhelming sense of awe at the weight of history embedded in every stone on which I was stepping (up) on that day.

A feeling of an unconscious heroism appears in all who reached to the top. With more than an hour’s strenuous walk, I too wonder who had thought of my climbing the Great Wall this time, and same is the feeling of the other people around me. I, along with my two other colleagues from Fiji Mr. Waisake and Ms. Venina also walked uphill to the top among many other travelers, all mesmerized by the blend of natural and architectural grandeur, one of the most appealing attractions for people from all around the world.

I notice everyone sweating but never tired of walking up the wall, up, straight and curves; people over seventy or eighty, women, children, and couples – all are energized while climbing. I could witness everyone being at the highest degree of joy; our spirits have taken us beyond the imagination, thinking how the Chinese erected such highway-like huge walls during those days; the masons and resources, hats off for you also built it to preserve your culture from foreign invasions. The wall that proved useful as a main road, transporting people and supplies during the past, was also wide enough for four to five horses to be ridden side by side on its top.

After a while, with a rejuvenated mind we had no option but to return. First time in life, I had an ecstatic experience of human traffic on the way. Unlike our initial planning to meet at 10.45 am at the base, we arrived an hour late, a wrong calculation as the organizers also failed to sense the flow of tourists and budding beauty of nature all around that one had to capture in the camera.

Fortunate I find myself today, for I am writing from the highest point of Badaling Great Wall, a symbol of spirit of determination and human intelligence of Chinese people. From this powerful site, among the Seven Wonders of the World, the only man-made structure that is visible from the moon, which also saw countless wars between Chinese rulers and other warring nomadic tribes. Standing here I am trying to constantly envision many brave soldiers in one of the lookout towers who safeguarded this country, centuries ago. Standing by the walkway, and looking out from the top of the Great Wall of China, today, I must be gazing at the same scene that thousands of workers, men and women, then armies of soldiers, and tourists alike would have also looked out during the past centuries, almost every day. Whenever cherishing this day in future, I know I will say I would have rather spent another day or so at the Great Wall, alone.

A glimpse of Tian’an’men Square and the Forbidden City

On the fourth day of my arrival in Beijing, I left my hotel room at four o’clock in the morning.  With an excitement to witness the popular flag hoisting ceremony at the sunrise, I hurried toward the Tian’an’men Square. As early as 5 am, I reached at this biggest open theatre of the world that “can accommodate one million people at one time” according to Yuan Yuan Laoshi, a Chinese language teacher at Beijing Chinese Language and Culture College.

When the Emperor and his courtiers were quite corrupt in China, people felt the need of a real revolution for long and they got the result of their wish in 1949 establishing the country as People’s Republic. With this historical background, Tian’an’men Square is a widely popular site of several demonstrations and events, as well as the location of Chairman Mao’s tomb. Other attractions of this site are Tian’an’men tower and the Great Hall of the people. The Hall was built in 1959 within 10 months, said Zhou Laoshi of Beijing Chinese Language and Culture College, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of People’s Republic of China.

Looking the world around from this Square, I could easily feel the difference between the Republic of Nepal and another republic, adjacent to us. Instantly, I proceeded towards the Forbidden City, an endless complex of labyrinth right behind the Tian’an’men Square, that served as the home of 24 Emperors, their court and households for centuries. The Forbidden City, with its Chinese name Gugong, is a Palace Museum too. With an impressive architectural vocation of temples, palaces, courtyards, a magnificent and awe-inspiring sight with wide passageways and gardens around, this is a must-see spot for travelers that has “9999 rooms in total”, said Wang Laoshi, Associate Professor at Beijing Chinese Language and Culture College. As I was walking from one courtyard to the next, our tour unfolded a many-layered vista of palaces, as if it was wrapped as gift for each group of visitors.

Each gate of the palace building opens to the royal chamber. With a predominant red colour throughout the City, every palace boasts flamboyant ceilings with intricate interlocking of wooden painted tiles. Looking at each of the palace, my eyes are dazzled seeing a big container to measure the grain, an indicator of time, an image of crane, an artistic water tank to extinguish the fire with a vision of good fortune, comfort, power and safety centuries ago. My surprise knew no bounds when I saw a stone carving that would weigh over 200 tons.

A human crowd is busy every moment and from all directions to capture its picture in the best possible angle, while I imagine how the Emperor made it possible to get this huge stone. It is written in the inscription that “some 1000 horses and 2000 people were deputed” to carry this stone from about 90 km away. Although this complex was off limits to civilians in the past, people, sightseers and tourists can admire its terraces and pavilions today.

A day’s trip to the Summer Palace

Another remarkable site is the Summer Palace, also known as the ‘garden of gardens’ which is apparently Beijing’s another popular tourist site, a classical garden with worldwide reputation. The Summer Palace, Yi-He-Yuan in Chinese translates as ‘Garden of Peace and Harmony’, which is the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China. As its name implies, the Summer Palace was used as a summer residence by China’s imperial rulers – as a retreat from the main imperial palace now known as the Forbidden City.

Indeed, the Summer Palace represents a distinct Chinese ideal of harmony between nature and its inhabitants. This is the proof how China has preserved history so well where thousands of tourists pour in to have a glimpse of their intelligence in garden arts. Situated between Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, in their unique styles, the pavilions, halls, trees, rocks, bridges and temples, all blend together – harmoniously.

Kunming Lake is the main attraction of the Summer Palace, and as I walked around I could feel cool summer breeze floating across the Lake. Perhaps it is more mesmerizing to me because I could associate it with the Phewa lake of Nepal every moment.

Although a little smaller than the Phewa, the way this was maintained beautifully, it featured to create a poetic effect between different scenes in me. I think the emperor and his family must have enjoyed immensely looking around the hillside and the lake at once while sipping the green tea during those summer days.

Walking leisurely through the corridors that encircle the lake is the most pleasurable moment with the crowd of tourists from everywhere. The rich paintings that adorn the cross-beams and walls, along the entire walkway with the beauty of four octagonal pavilions fascinate anyone. Moreover, exploring the lake on boat perfectly serves the purpose of any tourist for a day.

The street artists and the musical programme that was held at one of the pavilions by the bridge made me realize the significance of accessories to develop tourism in Nepal.

 [Published in The Rising Nepal, 13 July 2012]


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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Memoirs


चेखोभको जन्मभूमिमा

– जङ्गब चौहान
दक्षिण रसियाको एउटा सानो तटीयनगरको नाम हो तगानरोग। नोबेल पुरस्कार विजेता सोभियत लेखक मिखाइल शोलोखोभको प्रसिद्ध उपन्यास शान्त दोनको पृष्ठभूमि यो क्षेत्र विख्यात रसियाली नदी दोनको सिञ्‍चित प्रदेश मानिन्छ।
तीनतिरबाट अजोभ सागरले घेरिएको यो सानो हरियालीपूर्ण सहर वास्तवमै मनमोहक छ। दक्षिणी रुसको रस्तोभ प्रान्तको केन्द्रीय सहर सोलोखोभको जन्मभूमि रस्तोभबाट ७५ किलोमिटर पूर्वमा रहेको तगानरोग पुग्न दोन नदीको किनारैकिनार अजोभ सागरतिर लाग्ने विद्युतीय रेलबाट जानुपर्छ अथवा सानो जहाज यात्रा पनि रोज्न सकिन्छ। मास्कोबाट लगभग चौबीस घण्टाको एक्सप्रेस रेलयात्रापछि रसियाको सुदूरदक्षिणमा रहेको यो रमणीय सहरमा म तगानरोग विश्वविद्यालयको पाहुना भएर गएको थिएँ। जुन महिनाको सुन्दरता आफ्नै किसिमको हृदयस्पर्शी लागिरहेको थियो। मेरो मन भने विश्वविख्यात रुसी कथाकार एवम् नाटककार अन्तोन चेखोभको पावन जन्मभूमि टेक्न हतारिएको थियो।
म तगानरोग पुगेको रातभरि नै पानी परिरहयो। दिउँसो भने आकाश छ्याङ्ग। मीठो घाम। गर्मी पनि होइन जाडो पनि होइन। यसरी नै उघ्रिएका दर्जनौँ आकर्षक दिनमध्ये एउटा बिदाको विशेष बिहानी आइपुग्यो। दूरदेशबाट आउने दुई दिनको पाहुनाका लागि अजभ सागरको चञ्‍चल लहरसँगै चेखोभको भावदशामा रमाउने तगानरोग सानो भए पनि आँखाको नानीजस्तै प्रिय लाग्ने रहेछ।
चेखोभको जन्मघर
रणनीतिक र व्यापारिक महत्वको दक्षिण रुसको यो तटवर्ती सहर साहित्य, कला र संगीतका दृष्टिले रसियाको पावनभूमि मानिदो रहेछ। जार अलेकसान्द्र प्रथमले निरंकुशताको विद्रोहमा लागेका रुसका महान कवि पुश्किनलाई यसै भेगमा निर्वासनमा पठाएका थिए। यसरी ५ जुन १८२० मा तगानरोग आइपुगेका पुश्किनले यहाँको जीवन र प्रकृतिबाट थुप्रै काव्यात्मक प्रेरणा ग्रहण गरेका थिए। व्यापारिक केन्द्रका कारण १६ राष्ट्रले यस सानो नगरमा उहिले नै आ-आफ्ना वाणिज्य दूतावासहरू खोलेका थिए। त्यसैको स्मृतिमा यहाँका कतिपय सडकहरूको नामाकरण गरिएको रहेछ, जस्तै ग्रिक गल्ली, इटालेली चौक आदि। यस नगरमा विश्वविख्यात रुसी संगीतकार चाइकोभ्स्कीले आफ्नो जीवनको महत्वपूर्ण समय बिताएका थिए। उनले आवासको रूपमा प्रयोग गरेको वनकिनाराको कलात्मक रातो घरले अहिले पनि देश-विदेशबाट आउने भावुक यात्रीहरूलाई स्वागत गरिरहेको हुन्छ। यही घरमा बसेर चाइकोभ्स्कीले कयौँ मृदु सिम्फोनीहरूको सिर्जना गरेका थिए।
सागरतटमा अवस्थित एउटा सुन्दर वाटिकाको मध्यभागमा पुश्किनको विशाल कदको सालिक छ। नगरको केन्द्रमा पुश्किनको स्मृतिमा सडकको नाम राखिएको छ। त्यहाँबाट अलि पर जाँदा नाट्यचोकको अगाडि रहेको चेखोभ नाट्यशालामा देश-विदेशका उत्कृष्ट नाटकहरूको मञ्‍चन भइरहेको हुन्छ। यहाँ भद्रभलादमीहरूको मौन भीड देख्दा अचम्म लागेर आउँछ। भीड तर शान्त। कताकता जीवन र मृत्युको खोजमा हराएजस्तो।
यसरी तगानरोगले कयौँ स्रष्टाहरूको सम्झना गर्ने क्रममा अन्तोन चेखोभलाई आफ्नै मुटुभित्र टाँसेको रहेछ। चेखोभको जन्मभूमि भएकाले पनि यसो हुन गएको होला। उनको पुर्ख्यौली घर, उनले अध्ययन र सिर्जनाको क्रममा बाल्य र युवा दिनहरू बिताएको सानो चिटिक्‍क परेको आवासगृह, चेखोभ पुस्तकालय, चेखोभ संग्रहालय, चेखोभ नाट्यशाला, उनको पूर्णकदको सालिक, चेखोभ मार्ग, चेखोभ स्मारक माद्यमिक विद्यालयजस्ता सवै चेखोभ स्मारकहरूलाई तागानरोगवासीहरूले गौरवका साथ जोगाएर राखेका रहेछन्। कति गौरव छ चेखोभमाथि यस नगरलाई। कुनै पनि नगरवासीलाई चेखोभबारे सोधियो भने उसले प्रसन्‍नता र हार्दिकताका साथ चेखोभको जीवनी र कृतित्वका सम्बन्धमा सविस्तार बताउन खोज्नु आफ्नो कर्तव्य नै ठानेको हुँदोरहेछ। हामी नेपालीले तगानरोगवासीबाट यस सन्दर्भमा सिक्नुपर्ने कुरा धेरै रहेछ। उद्योगधन्दा, बन्दव्यापारसँगसँगै आफ्नो सहरलाई कसरी साँस्कृतिकरूपमा सम्पन्‍न  बनाउन सकिने रहेछ भन्‍ने तथ्यको एउटा ज्वलन्त उदाहरण बनेर बसेको रहेछ यो सहर।
सुदूर धर्तीको यो सामुद्रिक सहरको भ्रमणबाट मलाई के अनुभव भयो भने रुसी हृदयहरूलाई छाम्ने हो भने मास्को, सान्तपितर्सबर्ग होइन यो दोन नदीद्वारा सिञ्‍चित भूभागतिर आउनुपर्ने रहेछ, तगानरोग आउनुपर्ने रहेछ, कृषकहरूले आफ्नो श्रम पसिनाद्वारा सिँगारेको प्रदेशमा आउनुपर्ने रहेछ। यहाँ भेटिने छ सिर्जनात्मक रुस, तोल्सतोयको रुस। यहाँ चेखोभको रुस भेटिने छ, गोर्कीको रुस भेटिने छ र भेटिने छ चाइकोभ्स्कीको संगीत र शिशकिनको कलाले सिँगारिएको रुस। यहाँ शोलोखोभको प्रियभूमिमा बस्ने दोन नदीको शान्त धारहरूलाई स्पर्श गर्न पाइन्छ। कहाँ पाउनु यो आत्मीयता, यो हार्दिकता, यो कलात्मक संसार रसियाका विशाल नगरीहरूमा हिजोआज।
दिनभरि विश्‍वविद्यालयसँग सम्बन्धित कामपछि बेलुकीपख तगानरोगका सडकहरूमा, तटीय इलाकामा, सार्वजनिक उद्यानहरूमा, संगीतालयमा, नाट्यशालामा, अजोभ सागरको नौकाविहारमा जताजता गए पनि वातावरण चेखोभमय हुने रहेछ। यहाँको समुद्रीतटमा उभिएर कलात्मक मौनता साँध्न सकिने रहेछ। तटीय इलाकाको शून्यता, सेता समुद्री छालहरू र पक्षीका संगीतमय गान सबै सबैले जति तान्दै जान्थ्यो, विश्‍वका यी महान स्रष्टाको सिर्जनात्मक संसारले जति जति आफूभित्र समाहित गर्दै लान्थ्यो, भित्र भित्र कता कता घाउ दुखे झैँ लागिरहन्थ्यो आफ्नो मुलुकको सम्झनामा। यहाँको  सुन्दर आत्मीयताको, शालीनताको, हार्दिकताको अनन्त गीत गाउँदै छुट्टिने बेलामा मनभरि यस्तो भाव आएको थियो – तगानरोग, म तिम्रो महानताको गीत गाउन सक्छु तर मलाई बाँच्न मेरै हिमालको छहारी चाहिन्छ, मेरै पहाड र तराईको वासना चाहिन्छ। शीतल शीतल प्यारो प्यारो। मलाई लाग्यो चेखोभको सिर्जनात्मक संसारमा जस्तै दैनिक यथार्थबाट उठेर दर्शनको नीलगगनमा चिलझैँ उडिरहने मन लिएर बितेको यौवन र हराएका आकांक्षाहरू समेट्दै लयात्मक जीवन बाँच्न सके कति राम्रो हुने थियो।
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Memoirs


My Beijing Experience

-Jangab Chauhan
The last month of 2011 left esteemed reminiscence in my heart. In the chilling cold of December, I was heading to the People’s Republic of China as one of two-member delegate led by the Registrar of Kathmandu University, Professor Bhadra Man Tuladhar. The raison d’être of our visit was participation in Sixth Conference of Confucius Institute. For me, it was also an opportunity to have first-hand witnessing of the worlds’ second greatest economic power. This sojourn, however, was my second visit; during my first one in 2005, the country had not attained the record; it was striving and my visit was not official.

During the visit, I had reached Beijing while returning from Moscow by trans-Siberian railway, which runs through the great part of Russia, Mongolia and China. I had been cordially welcomed in the quarter of China Radio International (CRI) by my friend Kamal Lamsal, whom I had known since my student life in USSR. The experience that I had shared about my trans-Siberian journey and China stay in CRI Nepali program is so vivid that it reverberates like yesterday’s episode. After having seen the grand view of eastern civilizations such as The Great Wall, ancient palaces and museums of Ming and Qing dynasties, Beijing Temple of Heaven, grand structure of Tiananmen Square, Badachu Park for five days I had travelled back to Hong Kong. It was during September. It was during this journey, I had got an opportunity to feel the grandeur of People’s Republic of China via rail journey – both the high and plain land – from northern to southern border.
I was impressed by the Chinese people’s sense of discipline in work-force, love for the nation, respect for language and culture. What would happen in such a huge country and consequently in the world if the people went anarchic! Even thinking of any undisciplined spark brings chill to the bone. Thanks to the visionary leadership and disciplined citizens of the People’s Republic of China for making the country a centre of worlds’ attraction and attention. 
Coincidently, a year after my visit i.e., in 2006 Confucius Institute was established in the name of 6th century BC Chinese thinker and social philosopher. 
Confucius is an indexical figure in Chinese tradition and belief. Based on the foundation of respect for ancestors and love for family, Confucius postulated on indispensability of family as the base of ideal state. Philosophizing further, his notions express ethical concern – do not behave with others which you do not anticipate from them. I realized that this simple sounding but very ethical and grave practice stands as golden rule for the Chinese people. Confucianism in this sense is humanism of Chinese tradition. The same of ethicality can also be observed in Confucius’s preference for exemplary governance. He would regard orders unnecessary and un-pragmatic if the leaders appropriately take in tow. Indeed, decoding underlying intelligence of the philosopher’s sense of shame would impart very evocative sense. 
From among many issues discussed in the conference, the précis I have drawn is that the People’s Republic of China has been in commendable direction. So, Confucius cannot only be linchpin of Chinese people; he is the cultural pillar of the world. 
 Confucius Institute in Kathmandu University with the co-operation of Hebei University, for us, is the matter of both happiness and pride. We wish for very active and productive presence of an institution that reminds of such a great person in Kathmandu University. 
While writing these paragraphs, I recall the concluding remarks of Dr. Hao Ping, Vice-Minister of education minster and executive member of the Council of the Confucius Institute Headquarters:
“Do wholeheartedly whatever you do.
… This gathering is a forum for diverse cultural experience.
… Confucius Institute not only belongs to the Republic of China; it is the common heritage of the world.”     
[Translated from Nepali by Khagendra Acharya]
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Posted by on February 4, 2012 in Memoirs